FAQ About Heartworms

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How Are Heartworms Transmitted?

Heartworm DiseaseHeartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. The adult female heartworm lives in the infected host and produces baby heartworms called microfilariae which circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites an infected animal, it picks up the microfilariae which develop into larvae within 10 to 14 days.  Then, when the infected mosquito bites a dog or another susceptible animal, these mature larvae enter the new host through the bite wound. In six months they will mature into the adult heartworm and the whole process starts again. The adult heartworm will live five to seven years in dogs and two to three years in cats.

Why Should I Give Heartworm Prevention Year Round?

Mosquitoes become active when temperatures go above 50 degrees. In Alabama, it is not consistently cold enough to guarantee that mosquitoes won’t be active in the winter. Even in colder northern states, year round heartworm prevention is recommended. Mosquitoes are constantly adapting to colder temperatures, and different species are active at different times of the year.

What If I Miss A Dose?

If you miss giving one or more doses of heartworm prevention it is recommended to give the next dose as soon as you remember, and to continue giving every 30 days. Because it takes six months for the larvae to mature into adults, and a heartworm test can only detect the adult female, you will need to check a heartworm test six months from the missed dose.

If you are constantly forgetting to give monthly heartworm prevention, one option to consider is the remind me program through our online store. You can sign up to have a single dose automatically shipped to you at  the same time every month, and never forget your pet’s heartworm prevention again!

Do I Need To Give Heartworm Prevention If My Pet Doesn’t Go Outside?

All pets should be on heartworm prevention, whether they go outside or are strictly indoors. Mosquitoes can hitch a ride into your home on your clothes or through an open door or window. Rather than take the risk and hope your pet is never exposed, the best option is heartworm prevention. 

Heartworm Prevalence Map

What Are The Signs Of Heartworm Disease?

Signs of heartworm disease include chronic cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after activity, decreased appetite and and weight loss. Heart failure and cardiovascular collapse can occur as the disease progresses.

My Dog Is On Heartworm Prevention Year Round, Why Do I Need To Test?

No product is 100% effective, and yearly testing ensures that if there was a failure in the medication the your dog will be treated. Continuing to give the heartworm prevention will kill any larvae, but has no effect on adult heartworms.

What If My Pet Contracts Heartworms Even After Being On A Preventative?

No product is 100% effective. However, most heartworm prevention comes with a manufacturer’s guarantee, and they will reimburse you for some or all of the cost of treatment as long as there is proof that you have purchased it from a licensed veterinarian.

Are There Options Other Than Monthly Heartworm Prevention?

Yes! Whitesburg Animal Hospital carries an injectable form of heartworm prevention called Proheart 6, which protects against heartworms for 6 months. As with any heartworm prevention, a negative heartworm test is required before it can be administered.

The Fear Free Veterinary Experience

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Fear Free Taking the Pet Out of PetrifiedAt Whitesburg Animal Hospital, providing the highest standard of care is our number one priority. We constantly strive to better serve you and your pet, which is why a majority of our staff is now Fear Free certified. Fear Free is a multi-modal approach to veterinary care that encompasses your pet’s emotional and physical well being.

We have made many changes around the hospital, but there are things you can do as well to help us make your pet’s next veterinary visit an enjoyable experience. Here just a few things you can do for your next visit:

Acclimate Your Cat to the Carrier

If you keep your cat carrier in the garage or attic and only take it out once or twice a year when your cat needs to go to the vet, you will most likely start the visit off with a lot of stress and anxiety. A better approach is to leave the carrier out year round – make this a safe spot for your kitty! Placing some food or treats in or near the carrier will help your cat associate it with good things, making it that much easier (and less stressful) when it comes time for a vet visit.

Skip a Meal

If medically appropriate, try not to feed your pet before the exam. One of the main ways that we reduce anxiety and stress during the exam is through the liberal use of food treats. In this way, your pet is focused on the positive experience of eating something yummy, not on the uncomfortable sensations that can sometimes accompany a trip to the vet. Please be aware that we do use peanut butter as a treat quite frequently at our hospital. Notify us immediately if you or your pet have a food allergy so that we can accommodate your needs.

Bring Favorite Treats or Toys From Home

Consider bringing your pet’s favorite treats or toys along for the visit. In an unfamiliar place, items from home will bring your pet a sense of security and comfort. In addition, they can also serve as a distraction from unpleasant sensations and a reward for good behavior, all of which will help reduce stress and anxiety.

Give Pheromones a Try

We have seen great success with the synthetic pheromones Feliway (for cats) and Adaptil (for dogs). These products mimic the natural pheromones produced by your pet to create a sense of security. It may be helpful to use these products before the vet visit to reduce anxiety and stress in your pet.

Call From the Parking Lot

We know that the reception area can be a very stressful place for both you and your pet. If your pet experiences a lot of anxiety from being in the waiting room, don’t be afraid to give us a call when you arrive. We will arrange to bring you straight to the exam room from your vehicle.

Stay tuned as we share more about what it means to be Fear Free and what we are doing to reduce fear, anxiety and stress in the veterinary hospital.

Pet Poison Awareness

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 Common Toxins Found in the Yard and GarageToxins

Knowing the potential toxins commonly found around your home and being able to identify signs and symptoms of pet poisoning can save your pet’s life!

Poisonous Plants

Spring is here; so you and your pet are sure to be spending more time outside. The daffodils and lilies have started blooming, signalling the end of winter, but did you know that these plants are toxic to your pet if ingested? While some plants may cause only minor discomfort, others have the potential to cause severe illness or death. The table below will help you identify a few of the most common toxic plants and the severity of the problems they may cause.  


Species Affected Part of Plant Degree of Severity

Signs & Symptoms

Azalea Dogs, Cats All parts Mild – severe; depending on amount ingested Vomiting, diarrhea, transient blindness, seizures, coma
Daffodil Dogs, Cats All parts; especially the ingestion of bulb may causes severe tissue irritation and drooling. Mild – moderate Vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, cardiac arrhythmias
Oleander Dogs, Cats, Horses, Cows, Birds All parts Moderate – severe Vomiting, abnormal heart rate, arrhythmias, seizures, death
Sago Palm Dogs, Cats All parts; the seeds (nuts) in particular are most toxic. Severe Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, jaundice, black-tarry stool
Foxglove Dogs, Cats All parts; even the water in the vase can cause toxicosis. Moderate – severe Vomiting, abnormal heart rate, cardiac arrhythmias, dilated pupils, seizures, death
Lily of the Valley Dogs, Cats All parts Moderate – severe Vomiting, diarrhea, slowed heart rate, severe cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, death

(Tiger, Day, Easter)

Cats All parts; including pollen and water from the vase. Moderate to severe Vomiting, diarrhea, inappetance, seizures, death


The ethylene glycol found in most antifreeze is extremely dangerous to dogs and cats. Other common toxins include windshield de-icing agents and hydraulic brake fluid. Be sure to keep them stored safely out of reach of your pet. Ingesting as little as a tablespoon can cause severe kidney failure in dogs. A teaspoon can be fatal in cats.

The Three Stages of Ethylene Glycol Poisoning:

  • Within 30 minutes of ingestion, early symptoms similar to alcohol poisoning. Walking “drunk”, drooling, vomiting, excessive thirst and urination, and seizures begin.
  • Stage two occurs 12 to 24 hours after ingestion. At this point clinical signs may appear to improve. However, severe damage continues  within the body.
  • Approximately 36 to 72 hours after ingestion, severe, acute kidney failure, vomiting, seizures, and coma are likely outcomes.

Ethylene glycol poisoning requires immediate treatment. Ideally the antidote should be given within 3 hours of ingestion in cats and within 8 to 12 hours in dogs.  As clinical signs develop, the prognosis is very poor.  As a result, aggressive treatment is necessary for survival.


Mouse and rat poisons, for example, are very dangerous.  Therefore, it is important to keep these toxins safely out of reach of your pet. The four most common types of rodenticides are addressed below. 


Toxin Name Mechanism of Action Signs & Symptoms

Special Precautions

Long-acting Anticoagulants Brodifacoum, Bromadiolone, Diphenadione, Chlorophacinone & Difethialone   Prevents blood from clotting and causes internal bleeding Lethargy, pale gums, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, nosebleeds, bruising, bloody urine, swollen joints Very young or very old animals,  and those with underlying liver and/or gastro-intestinal disease are at higher risk.
Bromethalin Fastrac & Terminantor Causes swelling of the brain Lethargy, walking drunk, abnormal pupil size, tremors, seizures, and in some cases, even death. Unfortunately, there is no antidote for this toxin and there is a low margin of safety. Cats in particular, seem to be more sensitive to this toxin than dogs.
Cholecalciferol Vitamin D3, Calcitriol & Calcipotriene Causes high calcium and phosphorus levels which can be life threatening. Lethargy, inappetence, weakness, increased thirst and urination, organ failure There is no antidote for this toxin and there is a low margin of safety. It is likely that signs may not appear for 1-2 days after ingestion.
Phosphides Rodenticide AG, Gopha-Rid, ZP & Sweeney’s Poisoned Peanuts As poison mixes with stomach acid, a deadly phosphine gas is released. Drooling, nausea, vomiting, abdominal bloat, diarrhea, shock, seizures, liver damage, difficulty breathing, even death. Gas can be dangerous to humans, hence, vomiting should not be induced!

If You Know or Suspect That Your Pet Has Ingested Something a Potential Toxin:

Call Whitesburg Animal Hospital  immediately at (256) 882-0950.

For After Hours Emergencies:

Call the 24/7 Pet Poison Control Center  at (885) 764-7661 or the Animal Emergency Clinic at (256) 533-7600.

Pet Dental Health

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Did you know that periodontal disease is the most common condition in adult pets? Studies show that poor dental health can negatively affect the heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver, with the potential to shorten the lifespan of your pet.

Signs of DBrushing Teeth for Good Dental Healthental Disease

  • bad breath
  • pawing at face
  • salivating
  • red, swollen gums
  • facial swelling
  • broken or loose teeth
  • trouble chewing / decreased appetite


A Healthy Weight Loss Diet Can Add Years To Your Pet’s Life

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Jake before dietWe know that starting a weight loss diet for your pet can be overwhelming.  Here, we share a client’s amazing weight loss success with her own pet. We hope that seeing the difference she made in Jake’s quality of life will inspire you to continue your own journey in creating a healthy and happy lifestyle for your pet. Continue…

Make Weight Loss Your Pet’s Resolution For The New Year!

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Weight Loss - Dog on ScaleDid you know that over 50% of dogs and cats in the US are overweight or obese? Obesity puts your pet at an increased risk for arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart and respiratory disease. You can decrease the risk by promoting a healthy weight through diet and exercise. Make creating a healthy lifestyle through weight loss your pet’s new year’s resolution.